There’s no better place to fulfill your life-long dream of building a log home than on the vast expanses of terra firma up for grabs around Trinidad, Colorado.
This area, just north of New Mexico, offers easy access to a number of large cities, rich history and culture galore, plus an alluring mountainous landscape.
The history of Trinidad, Colorado, goes back further than anyone call recall-the longest single set of dinosaur tracks ever unearthed in North America (left by both the brontosaurus and allosaurus) was found just east of town in Picketwire Canyonlands.
More recently, equally notable “creatures” left their footprints around town. The last stop on the Santa Fe Trail, this once-unnamed campsite first drew traders on their way to Denver. Later, it hosted such infamous gunslingers as Doc Holiday, a long-time friend of town marshal Bat Masterson. And Wyatt Earp, who drove the stagecoach between Trinidad and Box Springs, New Mexico, also passed through.
But it was the discovery of coal in the mid-1800s that changed the face of Trinidad, bringing immigrant miners, the railroad and booming commerce. By the turn of the century, coal camps had sprung up in the foothills around town, supplying coal to the steel industry to make tracks for the new network of railroads, until its gradual decline beginning in the 1930s.
For the past few years, Trinidad has been experiencing a rebirth. Natural gas is now extracted from the same mountains that once supplied coal, and more and more storefronts are being renovated for new businesses. Artists have emigrated from the creative meccas of Taos and Santa Fe to enjoy the beauty-and affordability-of Southern Colorado.
What’s It Like to Live Here?
Those who have relocated to the area all have one common comment: You can’t beat Western hospitality. Trinidad and the surrounding communities are usually a mix of well-established, local families and newcomers who have sought out this slice of heaven for a bit of peace and quiet.
Simply put, Trinidad is a nice, small town. “It’s like the reverse of the Industrial Revolution,” says Kelly Young of Land Properties Inc., whose husband coined the phrase. “More and more people are looking for the romance of the West and want to get out of town.”
How’s the Weather?
What could be better than more than 300 days of sunshine per year, winter temperatures that rarely fall below freezing
and a summer with mild, dry air? With its ideal location on the front wall of the Rocky Mountains, Trinidad’s weather is as close to perfect as you can get. In fact, locals call it the “Colorado Bahamas.”
The coldest month of the year is January with an average high of 48 degrees; summer temperatures can reach into the 90s, with low humidity. Snow bunnies will thrive in Trinidad as well. There are a number of prime Colorado and New Mexico ski areas located within a few hours’ drive.
Warm weather frequently continues well into the fall, but when winter does finally arrive, the cold air and snow don’t stick around long enough to make a significant impact. This makes the area quite accessible all year via Interstate 25. With no mountain pass to cross, Trinidad is a convenient weekend retreat for people living in Denver and Pueblo, Colorado, as well as Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
What to Do, What to Do
The great outdoors seems to be a favorite pastime of residents, who sit on their front porches and take in the majestic views from their private havens. But, if you’re up for a little more excitement, you’ll easily find a variety of activities to pass the time.
Despite its small population (a mere 9,000 residents), Trinidad is a booming center of art, culture and sophistication. The historic brick streets of downtown boast five museums and a number of galleries to support its growing artists’ community. The city center, or El Corazon de Trinidad (Heart of Trinidad), with its abundance of late 19th-century architecture, was declared a National Historic District in 1973.
You may also want to spend time exploring the old coal camps that made Trinidad what it is today. They can be found at Bon Carbo, Vallarosa, Tollerburg and in the Riley and Berwind Canyons.
Be sure to take the two-hour drive along Colorado Highway 12, known as the Scenic Highway of Legends, with its cultural, natural, geological and historical landmarks. You will be riveted by the Native American legends that abound at every milepost along the trail.
The breathtaking 14,000-foot Pikes Peak and the Garden of the Gods Park, with its soaring red rock formations, are due north of Trinidad on I-25 near Colorado Springs. Plan to spend at least an hour in the Garden of the Gods admiring the stunning geology.
The Southwest is known for its spicy dishes, and Trinidad is no exception. Be sure to sample a variety of green chile sauces-a local specialty-as each restaurant adds its own unique twist to the age-old delicacy.
For a truly special night out, Charlie Barks and Barb Sandgren of Adobe Gold Properties recommend dinner and jazz music at Aly’s Fireside Cafe in Walsenburg. In Trinidad, they suggest stopping by Rino’s Italian Restaurant for another musical supper. Located in Trinidad’s historic district, Rino’s welcomes you with singing waiters!
Location, Location, Location
When looking for the perfect spot to build a log home, you’re spoiled for choice around Trinidad. There are spots along the flat plains and meadows, even properties that include your very own mountain. But Southern Colorado is growing quickly as more and more people discover its natural beauty and wealth of land.
If you’re looking for a large piece of terrain, you’ve come to the right place. Early settlers were given 160 acres under the Homestead Act of 1862, but as families grew and generations passed, the land was often combined and ranches comprising thousands of acres were created. Descendants of the homesteaders are now finding it hard to make a living from such large ranches so they are subdividing and selling.
Today, the smallest parcel you can buy in Colorado (outside of an established development) is 35 acres. This is because this is the minimum amount of land you need to get a domestic well permit. This permit is vital if you’re thinking of raising cattle or horses.
The cost of land varies depending on where you’re interested in settling, but it’s still an unbelievable value. The closer you are to town or a ski area, the more it’s going to cost you. Also, if the land is pastoral and full of trees, expect to pay much more-it’s probably just the acreage everyone is after!
Another key feature to look for is the amount of surface water on the land; it’s usually hard to find. If the property you’re considering has a creek or stream, snatch it up right away.
|Just the Facts: Trinidad, Colorado
Residential property tax rate: 7.96 percent of actual value
Non-residential property tax rate: 29 percent of actual value
Average income per household: $26,681
Price and size of a recent, typical sale of vacant land: Residential lots $18,000 to $25,000; 35-acre lots $35,000 to $100,000
Price and size of a recent, typical sale of existing log home: $175,000 to $450,000
Closest airport: Perry Stokes Airport in Trinidad
Closest medical service: Mount San Rafael Hospital in Trinidad
Educational facilities: Three elementary, one middle and one public high school in Trinidad; Trinidad State Junior College, Pueblo Community College and University of Southern Colorado in Pueblo; Trinidad/Carnegie Public Library in Trinidad.
Joanne Poesch is a freelance travel writer from Ashburn, Virginia. While her specialty has been international locales, she is thrilled to discover all the “Great Places” North America has to offer.
Trinidad, Colorado was featured in the April 2004 issue of Log Home Living.
Story by Joanne Poesch